The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

astonishing A beautiful exploration of mental illness, family, and culture. The Astonishing Color of After takes place immediately after Leigh’s mother has committed suicide. Leigh, who is already a teenager discovering her place in the world, struggles to come to terms with what happened – and how her mother’s depression has affected both Leigh and her father. Believing that her mother’s spirit is still present, Leigh travels to Taiwan to reconnect with her estranged maternal grandparents.

This is a beautiful, thoughtful look at mental illness and grief, as well as an exploration of Taiwanese culture (the author’s background as well.) It’s also a touching reflection on family. The chapters move back in forth in time – present day Taiwan, and in the past, with flashes of memory surrounding Leigh’s mother and parents.

The subject matter here could easily become either melodramatic or saccharine, but Emily X. R. Pan has managed to write an incredibly thoughtful and balanced book that explores heavy topics with grace and a deft hand. I loved the writing, and I loved spending time with Leigh in Taiwan as she rediscovers her mother’s roots. Quietly powerful and highly recommended. (Submitted by Veronica)

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The Dry by Jane Harper

dry

The Dry is Jane Harper’s debut novel, set in a remote rural town in Australia. Immediately the story has an atmosphere radiating heat, tension and small-town secrets. It introduces Federal Agent Aaron Falk who was run out of town as a teen, returning to attend the funeral of his estranged best friend who’s killed his wife and son in a murder-suicide. I found myself engrossed in the town’s colourful residents, their past and their current tensions as they struggle in the grip of a severe drought that’s bringing their lives to the brink of ruin. Rich in Australian culture and interesting characters, it was hard to put the book down and the ending was both a surprise and a satisfying resolution. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who loves a good mystery or is into Liane Moriarty’s novels. (Submitted by Pippa)

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